The choking, assault and attempted kidnapping of a Chinese woman at a Beijing hotel in full view of security cameras and multiple passers-by has sparked a social media firestorm, with more than two billion views.
It is the latest in a series of flashpoint incidents in China where witnesses have stood by doing nothing, sparking debate about whether the country is turning into a society of bystanders.
A woman using the screen name “Wanwan” on Tuesday posted a video of surveillance footage showing her being assaulted by a man in the hallway of a Yitel hotel, an economy chain.
Her assailant choked her, pulled her hair and tried to abduct her while she shouted, “I don’t know you, let go of me!”, she said.
A hotel staff member who assumed that they were a couple having a fight observed them at close proximity for several minutes and asked them take their dispute elsewhere, but did not intervene, she added.
After a failed attempt to flee via the lifts, she was eventually rescued by a female passerby who came to her aid, the footage showed.
“The whole incident lasted five to six minutes, in a place entirely covered with surveillance cameras, yet not a single security or hotel management staff member came out to help me,” Wanwan lamented.
The most popular of numerous hashtags referring to the incident had accumulated over two billion viewings by Thursday afternoon on China‘s Twitter-like Weibo — around 50 percent more than the number of people in the world’s most populous country.
It had over two million comments.
“When a man hits a woman, no matter whether they know each other or not and no matter what the reason or what the circumstances, you should always mediate and pull them apart if possible,” said one.
Witnesses are often afraid to come to the aid of strangers in China, where there have been numerous high-profile attempts by injured parties to try to extort money from those who have helped them.
In one well-known 2009 case, a driver who assisted an elderly woman was ordered by a court to pay her 100,000 yuan ($16,500), on the grounds that he would not have helped if he was not responsible for hitting her.
In another oft-cited 2011 incident, a toddler named Yue Yue in Guangdong province was run over by two separate vehicles and later died after being ignored by more than a dozen passers-by.
The country only passed its first ever law against domestic violence in December, despite government statistics stating that nearly a quarter of all married Chinese women have fallen victim to it.
Wanwan said she called police multiple times, only to be told the event “wasn’t their business”. They later opened an investigation.
In a separate post, Wanwan said the hotel had offered her money to take down her post — which she refused.
The day after her original post, women staged a protest outside the hotel in support, holding signs reading: “Hotels have a responsibility to protect women” and “Who will be responsible for protecting women’s safety?”
Yitel’s parent company Homeinns issued a statement saying: “We deeply apologise to the person involved and the general public.”
The incident had revealed “insufficient security management and customer service”, among other issues, it admitted.
Many social media posts gave women basic self-defence tips, while others told them not to go out alone at night or dress too fashionably.
“This society! We don’t talk about how to improve security or our bureaucratic governing style, or about using the law to punish violent criminals when their victims have nowhere to turn!” wrote one Weibo commentator in disgust.
“Instead, we ask passers-by and girls to be more careful and not go out at night — this is absurd!”